There are the good kinds of summer slides--the ones in playgrounds and water parks, or even set up in the backyard (like the infamous Slip n' Slide).
Then there is the bad kind: the learning loss that take place in those months out of school, also known as the summer slide. That's the kind of slide that has long-ranging negative impacts, especially for at-risk youth.
The truth is, many students don't have access to the kind of idyllic summer that minimizes the risk of learning loss--one with regular trips to the library, the zoo, the park, the museum, one with weeks spent enrolled in engaging summer camps. That often puts them behind. Research shows that while low-income and middle-to-upper-income kids tend to progress at similar rates during the school year, low-income students tend to lose ground in things like reading comprehension while their higher-income peers tend to make slight gains.
In fact, Johns Hopkins University researchers concluded in 2007 after a longitudinal study that two-thirds of the 9th grade reading achievement gap can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities during elementary school. It makes sense; even slight summer losses put low-income students behind their peers at the start September, and the gap just gets wider every year.
The achievement gap is a particularly prevalent issue in Minnesota, and one with which Fred Wells Tennis & Education Center has been concerned since we opened in 2002. Studies show that quality out-of-school programs can improve academic performance and keep kids on track to graduate. Involvement in sports, access to supportive adult mentors, out-of-school academic support--these are all factors that can make a difference, and they're all things that we at the Fort try to provide for kids of all ages, incomes and tennis abilities.
This summer we invite Twin Cities youth to skip the summer slide and spend their time at the Fort--we've got tennis classes, junior team tennis and the double whammy of Tennis & Fitness Camp and our Tennis2College Summer Camp on offer. It's never just about tennis at the Fort; we believe that this sport is a gateway to inspiring kids to dream, believe and achieve.